Conservation Is a Priority in Governor Newsom’s 2020-21 Proposed Budget

This summary was written in collaboration with the legislative consultants at Pacific Policy Group.

Governor Gavin Newsom released the Governor’s Proposed 2020-2021 Budget Summary on Friday, January 10. The proposed budget includes funding for climate smart agriculture, forest health and fire resilience, improved access to parks, and sustainable water management. Other highlights include the Climate Catalyst Fund $1 billion revolving loan fund, a proposed Climate Resilience Bond, and funding to cut “green tape.”

Climate Smart Agriculture

Funding for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs was reduced from the 2019-2020 budget, however there are still significant allocations. The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) is being funded one a one-time basis.

  • $18 million for the Healthy Soils Program
  • $20 million for grants to reduce methane emissions in the dairy sector
  • $20 million for SWEEP

Forest Health and Fire Resilience

The governor increased allocations for forest health and fire protection programs. Of note is a large investment in home hardening.

  • $110.1 million to implement Assembly Bill 38 on home hardening
  • $165 million for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (CAL FIRE) Healthy and Resilient Forests program
  • $35 million for CAL FIRE’s Forest Carbon Plan: Prescribed Fire and Fuel Reduction

Climate Resilience Bond

The Governor’s budget outlines a $4.75 billion Climate Resilience Bond. It is important to note, the Senate also has a climate resilience bond, SB 45 (Allen), which they have been working on since last year; and, the Assembly is expected to release a new bond proposal soon. After working through the legislative process, a final bond will likely be a combination of the three proposals. If a climate resilience bond is passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, it will be on the November 2020 ballot.

In the Governor’s bond proposal, we are excited to see $200 million allocated for the Environmental Farming Incentive Program (EFIP), which will subsidize and provide technical assistance for conservation on agricultural lands. In 2019 we worked to make EFIP a reality by co-sponsoring SB 253 with the Nature Conservancy. SB 253 was held last year in the Appropriations Committee so we are very happy to see the program has new momentum in the proposed Climate Resilience Bond.

The bond also includes funding for:

  • Enhanced stream flows and fish passage
  • Multi-benefit flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration
  • Regional and inter-regional water resilience
  • Sustainable groundwater management
  • Coastal wetland restoration
  • Urban greening and forestry

Cutting Green Tape

The Budget includes $4 million in ongoing General Fund and 16 positions for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to increase the scale and pace of restoration work, and incorporate efficiencies into grant programs. Kellyx Nelson, San Mateo RCD executive director and CARCD Board Member, has been integral in this effort and discussion, including co-authoring a white paper to bring attention to the issue.

Climate Catalyst Fund

The Climate Catalyst Fund will be a $1 billion revolving loan for organizations and industries who want to invest in climate adaptation solutions. Climate smart agriculture, dairy digesters, efficient on-farm irrigation, sustainable food processing, small business/landowner loans for forest management, and community hardening are called out explicitly. There is only preliminary information available about this fund, and CARCD is actively working to find out more and to make sure Resource Conservation Districts are part of the conversation.

Other Highlights:

  • $35 million to support the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, including Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation and enhancements to the Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • $257 million existing bond funds ($1.4 billion over the next five years, primarily from Proposition 68) to continue to support strategic natural resources programs.
  • Improving Access for Underserved Populations—$20 million General Fund to establish the Outdoor Equity Grants Program to enable underserved and at-risk populations to participate in outdoor environmental educational experiences at state parks.
  • Enhancing Access Programming—$11.8 million to expand both technological and physical access to parks, as well as culturally inclusive enhancements to park programming and interpretive exhibits including $3.2 million to conserve and restore native plants and animals within State Parks

Next Steps

In the next few months, the budget proposal will pass through Assembly and Senate budget hearings, before it is again reviewed by the Governor. CARCD will stay up to date and make sure that conservation is seen as a priority and that Resource Conservation Districts are seen as part of the solution.